Monday, April 29, 2013

Neon and Florescent

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Have you every considered how exactly neon colors work ? What makes them brighter or more visible than normal primary or tertiary colors?

As we all know the whole concept of neon florescent color originated with lighted signs. Neon, like all inert or noble gases have no color, smell or taste, but they do emit certain colors when ionized while trapped in glass tubes.  They were, and sometimes still are, used as an advertising strategy to draw eyes away from competitors painted signs and toward the light up variety. While the signs themselves have diminished in popularity, the colors became widely available and have became part of the cultural vernacular. 

The colors themselves, neon green, electric blue, hot pink, all changed the color landscape for fashion, interior design and even architecture, by redefining and expanding the contemporary palette. But now that these bright colors are no longer restricted to lighted signs what makes them so visually striking?

Amazingly, ultraviolet pigments, previously only associated with flowers and iridescent animals, can now be manufactured and added to paints to give them the glow of lighted signs. Commonly called dayglo colors, what makes them fluoresce is that they absorb light you normally can't see (UV light) and then release that energy as visible light. When in sunlight, or another source of UV light like a blacklight, the colors reflect more light back into your eye. Thus these colors seem brighter and more energetic than everyday colors which can only reflect visible light. The end result is that there is actually more light from those colors interacting with your brain neurons which produce our perception of color.

Today these colors are used for everything from clothing, cars and nail polish to monetary notes, and drivers licenses. It is amazing to think that neon colors push the limits of human visual perception. Before their invention there were few sources of of this visual phenomenon but as our mastery of color through science grows so to do our experiences of the color around us.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Cure for Color Blindness

Could a pair of specialized spectacles be the cure for color blindness? An American research institue based in Idaho called 2AI recently announced exactly that. 

The Oxy-Iso lenses were originally developed to help field medics spot bruising and veins in an injured patient that would have been otherwise difficult to see allowing for better immediate treatment on site. Anyone who has had an IV can attest it's not an experience you want to endure over and over again because the medic could not see the vein clearly. But in a small percentage of test users, those that suffered from red-green color blindness, their red-green vision as well as their ability to see veins was greatly enhanced. 

While this is not a exact cure, just as wearing prescriptions glasses or contacts is not a cure for those of us who are near-sighted, it has the potential of greatly enhancing the color perception of the wearer. The downside to the technology at this point is that the lenses can not be worn while driving as they make yellow nearly invisible. So why use them at all? Why is seeing just a few more colors all that necessary?

Mark A. Changizi (pictured above), the Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, states why red-green color vision is so important to our species. Previous theories thought that our three cone system evolved as follows: yellow-blue for living in a world with mostly green plant life, greyscale for depth and contrast, and red-blue for picking brightly color fruits out of the background. The problem with the rationale comes when you examine the diet of various primates who have the same color vision as we do. Depending on the geographic location and the diet of the species, you see huge variety in the visual requirements for survival. Wouldn't evolution have specialized vision to accommodate the diet of each species over time if that were the case? 

Changizi thinks those primates weren't looking at food but instead looking at each other. He postulates our "color vision was for sensing others of our own primate kind, to sense the ... signals we display on our faces, rumps and genitalia." And the human color vision even "evolved above and beyond that found in other mammals... allowing us to sense colour-signals on the skin, including blushes, blanches, as well as sensing health."

This is an exciting break through for the few women but nearly one out of ten men that suffer from the condition. We want to know what you think. Are you color blind or know someone who is? Would you consider a sometimes fix for your red-green color blindness to perhaps see faces and emotions more clearly? Let us know in the comments.

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting in the swing of spring!

Though many of our fellow color lovers  to  the north and midwest may still be experiencing snow here in San Francisco spring is springing. So to distract ourselves from the constant sneezing and itchy eyes that allergy season brings and to take our mind of spring cleaning  we have decided to kick off the new season with some decorating ideas.   How you spruce up your home after the long wet winter? Cut flowers? Garlands? Change the artwork around? Here are some of our ideas!

To make your home feel lively and feel fresh try decorative paper  stands featuring spring motifs to add a festive feel for April and May. A lot can be accomplished with a dash of  pattern and color.

If you're a more advanced paper crafter you could  try these  delicate spherical doilies.   Depending on the colors you choose your home could be in for a bold splash or a  pastel breath of spring. 

There are wreaths as well. Though traditionally thought of as a winter holiday classic you can hang one on your door in any season. If you are bathing in the warm California sunshine, you may  be surrounded by over-burdened lemon trees. It seems lemonade can simply not be made as fast as these trees produce so why not use the extras for your  decorating project. No lemon trees around? Collecting newly green branches or wild flowers from your area will give your wreath that added local feel. 

Along with cut flowers there is  the time honored decorating standard of budding branches and the all green floral arrangement to consider.  Adding dramatic sprigs of green can  help envigorate the feeling of a room. You can use anything from a cutting of those thornless vines creeping over you back yard, some textural wild weedlings, or even left overs from your tree pruning project. 

Even if you are still stuck in the snow with little green to harvest you can always make your own colorful leaves! Whether all green or multicolored,  a few dry branches and twigs can bring the springtime inside without all that pesky water. Just cut, glue and arrange!

What are you planning for this years spring spruce?  Let us know in comments and from everyone here at Colour Studio: Have a colorful season!

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Modern Classic all in Pink?

Frank Lloyd Wright some would say is the most well known architect of the last hundred years, and one of his best loved projects is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. It is a twisting, white shelled beauty of a building, an inverted cone with sloping sides that contrasts nicely with the perpetually upright verticality of New York's highrises. But did you know that white was not  originally Wrights plan for the museum?

In fact Wright didn't like white and in his drawings for the museum the colors were anything but stark white. In various sketches dating back to the 1940's Wright proposed black, pink, peach, and even  a striking cherry red. Red was a color common to Wright's earlier work including his well known residential building Fallingwater.  

But even world class architect Wright had a client to please and Hilla Rebay, Solomon R. Guggenheim's art advisor,  vetoed the red idea saying to Wright "Red is a color which displeases S. R. G. as much as it does me."

Wright finally relented and gave up his red, and Rebay offered this help in a 1945 letter, "Yellow marble," she wrote, "and if not, green." But neither would come to be because as the building neared completion,  marble was deemed too expensive and was scrapped for a simpler creamy yellow paint option. In the intervening years the building has been repainted paler and paler until in 1992 when a major expansion was completed the Guggenheim came to be its now trademark white with a dash of gray. 

When the building was to be repainted in 2007, the Landmark Preservation Commission did paint forensics, carefully removing  paint from the exterior walls. They found 11 different layers revealing shades of white, yellow, and even beige but after much debate  the Commission voted to keep the now iconic platinum white. 

Though we can only imagine (or photoshop) what the museum would have looked like in a different skin, this sunset time lapse can give us one idea. What do you think? Is white as the main stay of serious architecture just another hold over from modernisms chromophobia or it is a truly contemporary blank slate for the big ideas of the times? Color is never a simple thing, but sometimes more history, and frankly controversy, than you would imagine lies under that crisp white exterior. 

- Emily Eifler, Writer, Colour Studio
- Jill Pilaroscia, Principal, Colour Studio